By Resita Cox of The Playgrounds Of My Notebook
Jermaine Lamar Cole, how can you just start off an album like that? Yes, that was Too Deep for the Intro, please…give us warning next time. Well, I guess Cole did kind of warn us of the heat of the album, telling us “It’s way darker this time” at the beginning of ‘Villuminati.’ And he was right. CWTSS painted a picture of Cole’s life as he pursued his dreams and how it felt to finally make it, while also telling us how it was being broke. This time, Cole admits he’s “knee deep in the game and it ain’t what I thought.”
The mastermind’s sophomore album takes us on a roller coaster of regret, bad decisions, ‘Mo Money’ and mo’ problems. ‘Trouble’ shows us exactly what Cole means by ‘dark.’ The beat of the song sounds…deadly. It’s one of those tracks that you could play the instrumental and still vibe to. Cole really showed his production skills on this album, which he did most of the producing for by the way.
In tracks like ‘Rich Niggaz,’ Cole confesses his fears of becoming just another ‘rich nigga,’ and becoming “heartless and numb from all the menages.” He tells us that even money can’t save your soul, yet in the hook sings a line stating “how much for your soul.” This song shows Cole in a fight with himself, trying to stay true to the game without ‘selling his soul’ for riches, as most rappers end up doing.
‘Forbidden Fruit,’ perhaps the most awaited track of the album, with K.dot, samples Ronnie Foster’s ‘Mystic Brew,’ made famous by A Tribe Called Quest. K.dot did not get to drop a verse on the track — Cole only used the rapper in his hook.
‘Chaining Day’ gives Cole confessing that being rich isn’t all of what he thought it would be. He also admits that the amount of money he has still isn’t all that much. “Look at me, pathetic nigga, this chain that I bought, you mix greed, pain and fame, this the heinous result.”
When Cole came in rapping on ‘Nas is Like,’ I almost closed my laptop and hung up my hiphop license. Cole, Nas, at the same time — he definitely outdid himself with this one. With so many Illmatic comparisons in previous years, hearing their voices at once sent chills down my spine. I confess, I did not make it through the entire album the first time, I replayed ‘Let Nas Down’ numerous times before proceeding. Cole gave his soul in these lyrics, and told nothing but the truth. Hands down, my favorite track on the album. He apologizes for letting the desire to create a hit, and thus make mainstream music, get in the way of his ‘art.’ “Apologies to OGs for sacrificing my art, but I’m here for a greater purpose/ I knew right from the start.” The song Cole is referring to when he tells the story of Nas being disappointed is ‘Work out,’ a single off of CWTSS. Born Sinner carries fewer mainstream hits than CWTSS does. In the first single off of the album, Miss America, Cole even says that the single probably will never get played on the radio…and he was half right. I never heard Miss America on the radio, did you?
What I love about Cole, and this album, is that he doesn’t need a lot of features from good artists to sale his stuff, or to get people to listen. Yeah, any good album will have a couple features, but it seems like artists today overload their albums with verses from every popular artist in the game and often you hear other people’s voices more than their own. Cole didn’t do that; here, he told his other story – not the ‘I finally made it’ story from CW, but the ‘I made it, now I’m just trying to stay afloat’ story of Born Sinner. After listening to the album all I can say is Wow, Cole, you really made us feel this one. It’s kind of reminiscent of a ‘Life After Death’ or maybe ‘God’s Son.’ Either way, he earned this one: he hit his third classic (The Warm Up, FNL, and Born Sinner). So, tally up the sales, I hope he beats Kanye!